Is Netflix slowly destroying the movie blockbuster?

Red Notice, Netflix’s fall blockbuster, hit the streaming service streaming last Friday with a chorus of mediocre criticism. The Heist Around the World movie reunites Dwayne Johnson as the strong arm of the law, Ryan Reynolds as an on-the-go art thief, and Gal Gadot as a personable, sophisticated, and only slightly better art thief. but many critics felt they had seen it all before. There are the aseptic reworkings of scenes from other better action movies: A dance scene reminiscent of True Lies; a torture scene that winks at Royal Casino; some thefts of Nazi artifacts in the style of Raiders of the Lost Ark (Reynolds whistles the Indiana Jones theme this time, in case you didn’t get the reference.) There are the endless and familiar shootings, which are rendered absurd by the fact that no one, on either side, is hit by a bullet. Then there is the plot of cops and robbers to death. As Nicolas Cage’s Charlie Kaufman said in Adaptation from 2002, criticizing his brother’s action script: “Furthermore, you explore the notion that the cop and the criminal are really two aspects of the same person. Watch every cop movie ever made to see other examples of this. “

There is, of course, a big difference between Red Notice and the old generation of blockbusters it lives up to: They were created to be seen on the big screen, while Red Notice It will be seen mainly on televisions or other even smaller devices. Given that Netflix has only given the film a limited run of one week in a relatively small number of theaters – 750 in the United States, compared to 4,090 currently showing Marvel’s Eternals– it is very likely that many more people will end up watching Red Notice on their phones than the one who had the opportunity to see it on a large scale.

Maybe that helps explain why Red Notice it feels so devoid of spectacle. It joins a sad list of largely forgettable Netflix action movies of recent years. Each time they have tried to make a blockbuster, they have increased the budget with little noticeable improvement in quality. The clumsy and formulaic Bright (2017) by David Ayer, starring Will Smith and Joel Edgerton, cost around US $ 100 million (₤ 74 million), while two years later, the absurd 6 Underground, directed by Michael Bay and also starring Ryan Reynolds, was made on a $ 150 million budget.

In the midst of them was Triple Frontiera $ 115 million action-adventure movie starring Ben Affleck and Oscar Isaac that has long since been largely forgotten. When this film failed, rumors began to circulate that Netflix boss Ted Sarandos wanted to cut spending on blockbusters, although it was soon denied. Obviously, they are still willing to pull the checkbook for the right talent on screen: The making of Red Notice It cost about $ 200 million, making it the most expensive original production in Netflix history. It has been reported that US $ 70 million was spent before a single second was filmed. Each of the $ 20 million went to securing the services of Johnson, Reynolds and Gadot, and another $ 10 million went to screenwriter and director Rawson Marshall Thurber. And to think that some critics doubted the ability of this team to carry out a robbery.

Thurber, who got his start directing funny and goofy comedies like Dodgeball, 2004, and We’re the millers, from 2013, has become Johnson’s regular contributor to blockbusters. In 2016, he made the action comedy Friends Central Intelligence with Johnson and Kevin Hart, followed by material derived from Die hard that imitates Johnson, Skyscraper, in 2018. Both films recovered their relatively modest budgets and more, grooming the star-director couple to Red Notice. However, Universal refused to accept the planned production budget of $ 200 million, so Netflix had to step in to make it happen. What’s most surprising about this Netflix power move, though, is that it later gave the film such a limited theatrical release. The perhaps inevitable result was that the movie barely made a million dollars back at the US box office before heading straight to the Netflix homepage. There, at least according to Reynolds and without any verifiable data, it attracted the largest number of viewers of the first day of the platform for an original film.

The company of streaming you will say, of course, that the box office is not what you are interested in. For Netflix, making blockbuster movies with the biggest A-list talents is a brand-building exercise. Moreover, it prefers that you get used to enjoying new movies from the comfort of your armchair. If you watch a movie on Netflix, the next thing you will most likely do is watch another movie on Netflix. If you see a movie in a theater, out there in the unpredictable real world, God knows what you might do next. You could end up having dinner, or in a bar, or even just enjoying your surroundings. It could be hours until you see Netflix again. How awful!

You can almost understand the logic from their point of view. However, the $ 200 million question remains: Allow movies like Red Notice spend more time in the world – finding an audience and helping struggling theaters along the way – would it really hurt Netflix’s subscriber numbers? After all, there is a precedent in Sky Movies’ film production model, which allowed for proper operation in theaters, while ensuring exclusivity of broadcast rights when films reached the small screen. .

Having the opportunity to see a movie for the first time at the theater can also change the way you feel about it forever. I still have a good memory of having enjoyed Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in the cinema, even though it was objectively as mediocre an action movie as it was Red Notice. Cinemas rely on bad blockbusters as much as they do on good ones, and they also add value to movies by giving them a level of spectacle that television can never match. If Netflix wants its blockbusters to stick in memory, it should start by putting them on the big screen.

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